CLARION - Nine years ago, Denise Eekhoff had a friend who was going to take an emergency medical technician training course. The friend invited Eekhoff to take the class with her.
"I really like helping people," she said. "So, I took the class."
New volunteers received both textbook and hands-on training at Iowa Central Community College.
Emergency Medical Technician Denise Eekhoff gets equipment ready in the Clarion Ambulance building. Among her many jobs, keeping the ambulances ready to roll at a few seconds notice.
"EMTs must pass tests to be certified and then we must be re-certified and take ongoing training," Eekhoff said.
Presently, Eekhoff is one of 37 EMTs for the Clarion area. She said that all of the police officers and city employees are trained EMTs.
Eekhoff, who also works as a paraeducator for the Clarion/Goldfield Community School District, said she generally serves 80 to 100 hours a month as an EMT.
"Our call shifts are for six hours," she said.
EMTs can volunteer to be an ambulance driver, which Eekhoff does regularly.
Some call shifts are uneventful and may not require anyone to go out, according to Eekhoff..
"Other shifts are very busy," she said. "We might have three calls in our six-hour shift."
Ambulances go Iowa Specialty Hospital in Clarion, but may require transfers to Iowa City, Des Moines, Fort Dodge, Mason City, Humboldt or Rochester.
"Our ambulance equipment is modern and very up-to-date," said Eekhoff. "We have power cots, IV pumps with warmers, just everything is the best. I know that it is expensive but if it saves someone's life, it is worth it."
Like most EMTs and first responders, Eekhoff doesn't like accidents.
"But I like to be there to help," she said. "And in the case of accidents, we always have the help of police departments, sheriff's staff or the Iowa State Patrol. At times, we have hospital helicopters land right where the accident has taken place, if that helps with getting patients where they need to go the fastest and best way."
Eekhoff said she likes knowing that what the EMTs do makes a difference.
"We don't always have the outcomes we would like," Eekhoff said. "But when we see a person who we did CPR on and they are well, it is gratifying. To know that what we did may have saved their lives. Or we have family members who thank us later for helping them out in their time of need."